20 Rule of Thumb Measurements for Decorating Your Home!

Looking for some help on how high to hang your art or what size rug or chandelier you should buy? This post is for you! Whenever I’m getting ready to hang art or drapes or am thinking about buying overhead lighting, I end up having to rummage through the papers on my desk to find the scribbled notes with my favorite “rule of thumb” measurements. I decided it was time to put my tried and true rules together and post them online so that I (and you also!) can easily reference them.
  • For a single piece of art, the center of the image should be at 56″ – 60″ from the floor, which places it at eye level. The larger the piece of art, the closer to 56″ it should be.
  • When hanging two pieces of artwork, one above another, treat them as one large picture – find the center point between them and use the 56″ – 60″ rule.
  • For larger pieces of art hung on the same wall, use a spacing of about 2″ between them. Smaller pieces can be hung a little closer together. 
  • When hanging art pieces above a sofa or other piece of furniture, the grouping should ideally be about 2/3 the width of the furniture below it. (For example, if an art grouping is being hung over a 60″ sofa, the ideal grouping would about 40″ in length.)
  • When hanging artwork over a sofa or other piece of furniture, leave 4″- 8″ of space between the top of the sofa/furniture and the bottom of the art. No higher!
 
Window Treatments
  • Buy drapery panels that will either kiss the floor or puddle on it.
  • To create the illusion of a taller window, mount drapery rods 4″ – 8″ above the window casing.
  • To make your windows appear wider and let in extra light, extend the rods anywhere between 4″ and 10″ (excluding finials) beyond the window casing. 
  • Drapery panels should have a combined width of 2-3 times the width of the window so if you have two panels framing a window, each panel should be 1 to 1½ times the window width. 
Light Fixtures
For a chandelier that will hang over a table:
  • The width of the chandelier should be about 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the table it will be hanging over.
  • The width of the chandelier should be about a foot less than the width of the table at its widest point. 
  • The bottom of the chandelier should hang between 30″ – 36″ above the surface of the table when there is an 8′ ceiling. For higher ceilings, you can hang the chandelier up to 3″ higher for each additional foot of ceiling. 
For overhead fixtures in rooms such as a living room or entry way that are not hanging over a table:

  • To determine a good width for your light fixture, measure the length and width of the room in feet and add those two measurements together – the number that you come up with is, in inches, a good appropriate width (For example, if your room measures 10 feet x 15 feet, add 10 + 15 to get 25. A 25″ wide fixture would be appropriate for this space.) For rooms with high ceilings, you can add up to 6″ or more to the width of the chandelier.
  • To determine a good height for your light fixture, multiply the height of your ceiling (in feet) by 2.5 and by 3. The height of your fixture should be, in inches, somewhere in this range. (For example, if you have 8 foot ceilings, 8 x 2.5 = 20 and 8 x 3 = 24. An appropriate height for your light fixture would be between 20″ and 24″ when measured from the ceiling to the bottom of the fixture). 
  • An overhead fixture that will be walked under, such as in the entry, should hang 7 feet or more above the floor.
 
  • Rugs under a dining room table should be at least 24″ wider and longer than the table, allowing the back legs of the chairs to stay on the rug even when the chairs are pushed out.
  • Area rugs under a bed should extend at least 18-24″ beyond each side of the bed.
  • For most typically sized rooms, there should be approximately 10″ – 18″ of bare floor between the edges of the area rug and the walls of the room. For small rooms, approximately 8″ of exposed floor is a good rule of thumb.

The last two (and maybe most important) rules:

  • Take a few minutes to consider these measurements before purchasing drapes, lighting, or rugs – it may help you avoid making a purchase you’ll later regret. However…. 
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules! The rules are meant to help you, not to squash your creativity or the fun of decorating. If you’ve tried something with a room that doesn’t fit with these measurement “rules” but looks and feels right to you, go for it!  Some of the most gorgeously designed rooms break every rule in the book! 
Looking for some more rule of thumb measurements about ceiling fans, and dining chairs and tables? You’ll want to check out this post: 10 More Rule of Thumb Measurements for Decorating Your Home

Comments

    • says

      Kris, I have 8 ft ceilings and want to hang a shell mirror from Pottery Barn that is 51″ x 37″ over my sofa? Will the mirror be too large or close to the sofa? I love large mirrors. I have beautiful crown molding also.

    • says

      Hi Ellen,
      First of all I love the idea of hanging a large mirror over your sofa – I’m a complete mirror-holic! Whether or not it will be too large depends on how high the back of your sofa is and how low down your crown molding goes. You’d want an absolute minimum of 4″ between the top of the sofa back and the bottom of your mirror and also at least that much from the top of your mirror to the bottom of your crown. Hope it works!

  1. says

    I predict that you’re going to have a pinterest gem on your hands with this post. Decor blogging can be kind of thankless, with lots of people profiting off of the bloggers creativity and hard work, so I wanted to be sure and let you know I appreciate the compilation. (Although, I’ve never been much on rule following, it can sure ease the stress having a general guideline, can’t it?)

  2. Anonymous says

    what about rugs in living rooms. we have a sofa against a wall because it is a long narrow room and across from sofa two brown leather chairs. what parts should be on carpet and how much

  3. says

    This is excellent! I’ve heard some of these “rules” over the years, but can’t always remember them. It’s great to have them in one place! {I just read Anna’s comment above, and I found this via Pinterest :)}

  4. says

    I’ve been looking at light fixtures to replace the one currently over our dining room table. Thanks so much for sharing these “rules.” They will definitely help me narrow down the choices. Just one question about them, though. The first two points for chandeliers over a dining table both talk about the width of the chandelier. Should one of those be length, or am I just misunderstanding? Thanks!

    • says

      Those two points are two different ways to arrive at the correct width for a chandelier. You will probably get a slightly different answer using the first “rule of thumb” versus the second – I used both rules to figure out a good size for my kitchen fixture and found that I arrived at different ranges but there was some overlap between the two!

  5. says

    Love love love this. Found it on Pinterest. It linked back to this FANTABULOUS blog, that everyone MUST follow…. I will be sure to pass YOU along to everyone I know and meet along the way….Thank you KRIS

  6. Anonymous says

    ah! love this!
    I have a question about curtains though. We live in an older home and have radiators under nearly every window. I worry about curtains having prolonged contact with the heat, but I want privacy at night. Not to mention needing that heat to stay in the room. The previous owners had shorter curtains over the windows – but I’m not so sure about that. What do you think?

    • says

      I totally understand your concern and probably wouldn’t cover the radiators even if many people say it’s ok. If your radiators are directly below your window, the ideal solution would be to place floor length panels on either side of the window where they don’t cover the radiator and then also add blinds to use for privacy so that you don’t need to draw the panels closed over the radiator.

  7. Anonymous says

    Regarding the curtains puddling on the floor or kissing them. You might consider raising them off the floor 1/4 to 1/2 an inch if you have young children, especially if it’s a doorway. We’ve had to fix holes in the walls twice where the part holding the rod was pulled from the wall (anchor and all) by a child.

  8. says

    Hi Kris, I would like to add a vintage barn light sconce over my bathroom vanity. Similar to this one: http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod691155&categoryId=cat1701019

    Is there a rule of thumb regarding the diameter of lighting over a vanity? Does the size of the room matter? My vanity is 36″ wide. Would the 18″ size be the best choice? That seems big to me. There is other lighting in the room.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • says

      Hi Mary,
      I’m not aware of a rule of thumb about the diameter of lighting over the vanity – the ideal vanity lighting is sconces on either side of the mirror and when there is not enough space for flanking sconces, most people opt for a fixture with multiple lights overhead. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do something different though (and I do love that RH sconce!)! I agree that 18″ seems a bit big if you’re going with a single barn light sconce – I remembered that “3 Men and a Lady” had a barn light sconce over their vanity and I found the link to it here: http://www.4men1lady.com/2010/08/guest-bathrm-before-after.html They used a 14″ sconce so check out their pics see how you think that looks!
      Kris

  9. says

    I have just entered the “finishing” stage of the house we are building and was installing a couple of light fixtures in my master bedroom. I see you didn’t mention how how over a bed a light should hang. Since it isn’t really being walked under but still “lived under”, is there an alternate rule for its placement? I have a tray ceiling above my bed area and installed a chandeliere.

    • says

      Hi Chantelle, I don’t think that there is a standard measurement for how high to hang a light over a bed but it is common to hang it lower than you would in a space where you would be walking under it. This is a situation where I would just “eyeball” it!

  10. says

    Great post Kris:) My mom just emailed me from NY asking how high to install her new dining room chandelier. I walked her thru it but forwarded her this post for other great pointers for her new house. THANKS!

  11. says

    Such a great post. These are tips that everyone needs. I will be pinning this one. I would love for you to link this up to my Fall into Fall party that opens each Tuesday evening at 8pm EST. Hope to see you there.

  12. says

    I have a cottage with really big – well, 5’x5′ wide windows that come down to about 20″ from the floor. The best look ever—-full, full, full, draperies on traverse rods that hang just to the edge of the bottom window molding. Long to the floor would look so formal and just not “cottagey”. So, always remember you can break the rules when it makes sense!! Thanks for this post, it’s great!

  13. Anonymous says

    Great information! Thanks for posting. I see many pictures hung way too high….
    or way too small pictures hung on a huge wall…..hopefully…..this will help!

  14. Anonymous says

    HI

    Are there any rules to how tall a lamp should be that is placed on a dining room buffet? Thanks Cheri Morgan

    • says

      Hi Cheri – traditionally, dining room buffets have lamps that are more tall and slender than a typical lamp and often they are used in pairs. However, I’ve seen buffets with just one lamp or lamps that are more typical in height and they can look great too. A lot of it depends upon the size of the buffet, the size of the room, and what else you have on and over the buffet. Since there are so many variables, I don’t think there is a great rule of measurement in this case!

  15. says

    Kris–this helps so much! I have a quick question. When buying an area rug with a wide boarder should the whole rug be seen or would it still be correct to place it under the furniture? I’m shopping traditional rugs for my den and our sectional sofa is half against a wall and open on the other L.

    • says

      Hi Angela – I would absolutely still recommend putting at least the front legs of your sectional on the rug. I can see your concern with the border, but it’s definitely the way to go. Having a small rug that ends in front of your sectional won’t look right. Thanks for reading!

  16. says

    I just wanted to tell you that you really helped me on positioning a large art piece on a wall behing a sofa. I had hung it and every time I looked at it, it looked wrong. I never knew the rules on this type of thing. I repositioned it according to your ideas, and it is just perfect. It made all the difference in the world. Thank you for sharing what you know with all of us. I really appreciate it. I do have a question. I have a dining room and a study that are separated by a small entry way and you can see both room from the entry way. I need rugs down in both rooms. I love lots of accent color and am not afraid of it so I do use lots of color in accessories. Do I need more neutral rugs that complement each other in both rooms or does it matter. I have handscraped hickory wood floors that are a medium to darker color.

  17. says

    Hi Paula – thanks for the nice comment – I’m so glad that the info on hanging the art helped! As far as your dining room and study, I don’t think that both rugs necessarily have to be neutral but I would buy rugs that complement each other (i.e. if you laid them side by side, the colors in the rug work well together). By the way – I’m dying over the fact that you have handscraped hickory wood floors – LOVE!

  18. says

    As a professional photographer who frequently sells wall decor portraits, and suggests to clients the perfect size and height for their portraits – I always say that I learned these tips from an interior designer – now I actually have a visual post that I can refer them to! I will be pinning this to my Pinterest page immediately – thank you so much!

  19. Anonymous says

    Here’s another one as well. The 6″ rule. Instead of pushing furniture right up again the wall, pull it about 6″ out from the wall, as well as furniture being at least 6″ from another piece. Not only will these 6″ protect your walls but the fabric on chairs from rubbing against each other.

  20. Sarah S. says

    Love this! I’ve pinned it and referred to it several times, as we’re decorating our new home. Is there a rule of thumb for the distance between curtain rings? How many rings would I need for a curtain rod that’s 78″ wide (70″ window + 4″ on each side)?

    • says

      Hi Sarah,
      I don’t know if there is a great rule of thumb for this because it’s going to depend upon the width of your drapes, the weight of the fabric, and the style of drape (pinch pleat, flat panel, etc.). For my shorter dining room rod, I’ve got 14 rings whereas for my longer rod I’ve got 20 – the difference being that my panels on the longer rod are fuller, as they should be for a bigger window. Good luck with decorating your new home!

  21. says

    How would you determine the correct measurement to hang a single lantern pendant over a table since it doesn’t have a typical diameter? For instance, my table is 36 X 54, so I should be looking for a light fixture in the 24-27″ range, however a square lantern of that size would be way too big. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Laura,
      I would recommend using the shortest of your table dimensions (36″) for figuring out the best size for your pendant. Using the 1/2 – 2/3 rule, that would translate to an 18″-24″ light fixture. Using the other rule of subtracting one foot, you arrive at an 24″ fixture so the two rules are pretty consistent in this case. I’d go for something in the 20″-24″ range.

  22. Page Remick says

    I hate to disagree, but I disagree with pat measurements for hanging pictures. I am a trained interior designer and have been in dozens of homes where they used the 59, 61, 62, eye-height ‘rules’ and the results were disastrous.

    There is no rule on height from the floor. No inches or eye-height rules work for very simple reasons. They do not take into account the eye height of a 6 foot 3 inch man who lives with a 5 foot 5 inch woman. Neither do they take into account the size of the picture and the size of the furniture in the room.

    I have seen your ‘rule’ used and seen a small picture over a low case piece…and it has NO relationship to the furniture. The picture is too high for a low case piece, the case piece is too large for the small picture.

    That is only one of dozens of mistakes that can happen when you use rules like inches and eye-height.

    The reality is that the picture size, type, style and framing should be in relationship to the furniture below it, beside it… and in the whole room. Don’t put delicate pictures in tiny frames in a room with leather recliners and mahogany bookshelves. I don’t care whether the pictures are at 34 inches or 93 inches from the floor (or anywhere in between): the results will be wrong.

    The height is dictated by whether the person in the room will be sitting, lying or standing (most of the time). The height is predicated on whether the picture is horizontal or vertical and whether there is furniture beside it or below it.

    You have to look at the picture in RELATIONSHIP to where you are hanging it: is it in a hallway, or a bedroom? Over furniture, beside it, or all by itself?

    Will people mostly be sitting, standing or reclining? Reclining in a futon and looking up at a picture at eye-height (hung when standing) is all wrong.

    Sorry, but picture hanging is an art, not a formula.

    This is also true about hanging lighting. There is no formula that works. It is all about ‘relationship’ to what room it is in, what is around it, whether people are sitting, standing or reclining…etc.

    I hope this helps, not hinders. There are times that I could wish for a formula/rule, but it all comes down to developing your eye and keeping in mind that art and lighting are supposed to be in relationship to people, the room style, and to the furniture it is nearby.

    • says

      Page,
      I agree that expert picture hanging involves developing an eye for it but it can take years of interior design work to do that. 99% of people hanging pictures and lighting in their home don’t have a developed eye and aren’t going to pay for an interior designer every time they want to hang something in their homes. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but the average person is going to have a much better result by using these rules than by guessing and going at it on their own. Even though I’ve gotten pretty good at “eyeballing” the appropriate height for art and lighting, I still find them to be a helpful reference myself.

  23. Anonymous says

    Hi Kris, I have a couple of non-standard questions if you don’t mind. I have stacked windows (two windows one atop the other) that are over 10′ tall on a wall that is 14 ‘ tall and the ceiling is the low end of a cathedral ceiling. Would it be better to cover both windows with curtains or hang them between the two (about 6′ between the two)? The upper window is smaller and at a height that no one could ever see in.
    Secondly, in the same room, I have the wall that starts at 14′ and climbs to about 22′ to the top of the cathedral. To me, this is wasted space so I am thinking of hanging large art and paintings/pictures there. Will this look out of place? This wall can be seen from as far away as 50′. Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

    • says

      Hi! Unfortunately, this is a situation where I’d need to see a photo to give any advice – it would depend upon several things, including the size and shape of each window, whether there is any decorative molding between the two levels of windows, and the size of the surrounding wall. Usually, hanging the rods up at the top of the highest windows works best but not always depending upon the specifics of the room. As far as hanging the art, again it’s hard to comment without a photo. Most of the time I wouldn’t recommend hanging art that high but there are certain situations where it can work. Feel free to email me some photos if you want more specific info!

  24. Anonymous says

    Hello Kris,
    I was wondering if you had any helpful suggestions for me. I just recently received my grandma’s chandelier. It is approximately 11 & 1/2 inches wide & about 10 inches tall. My plan is to hang it above my twin sized bed. I have a headboard that is 52 inches tall. How high should I hang the chandelier & how far away should it be hung from the wall & headboard (that is placed against the wall)?

    Thank-you,
    Kate

    • says

      Hi Kate! How great that you received a chandelier from your grandma – I love having things like that in my home that have meaning to me. For hanging it over you bed, you don’t have to hang it as high as you would if you were hanging it over a dining room table. I would just be sure that it clears your head by at least a few inches when you are kneeling on your bed. It’s hard to be sure about how far it should be hung away from the wall without knowing the layout of the rest of your room. In most cases, centering it between the head and foot of the bed or be a bit off center (more towards the foot of the bed) works. Good luck!

  25. Anonymous says

    Kris, what is the best size mirror to hang over a 72″ dresser in the bedroom? There is plenty of empty wall space on both sides and especially above. Any rules or suggestions would be helpful

    • says

      Usually a mirror about 2/3 to 3/4 of the length of the dresser works best but it also depends upon what’s on top of your dresser (you can get away with using a mirror that’s not quite as wide if you have a lamp, large plant, etc. sitting on the dresser). Good luck with your mirror shopping! Try HomeGoods if you have one nearby!

  26. Anonymous says

    Kris,
    I have a long empty wall in my kitchen where I was planning to hang a large picture collection/grouping, but do I “center” the grouping of pictures in the middle of the wall, or center it with the hanging fixture/kitchen table, which is not centered in the room? Which will look more correct?
    Thanks! Lee

  27. says

    Kris,
    I have a window that is 66 inches wide and I’m looking for curtain panels to hang. Most standard curtain panels are around 44 inches wide which means I would need three panels to achieve combined width of 2 times the window. How do you hang three curtain panels so they look right?
    Thanks! Margo

    • says

      Hi Margo, for a window your size, I would use two 44″ panels on each side of the window. What I usually do is just hang them both on the rod and arrange them so that where the two panels meet in the middle, the edges are tucked in – you can’t even tell that it’s not one continuous panel. The other option would be to sew your two panels together before hanging them. Hope that helps!

  28. Anonymous says

    Hello Kris,

    Thank you for the great information. I’m currently in the planning stages our new home and my window heights are giving me concern. It is a Cape Cod style home with a front porch that is about 8 ft high. So I’m limited to how high I can place my windows. I will have 9 ft ceiling. Our living room will be 21’L x 18.6’W, with 12′ of doors running along the back wall (only glass in room). Right now the tops of the doors/windows are about 22″ from the ceiling. Do you think this is too low? How much space between the top of a window and the height of the ceiling do you find most pleasing to look and decorate.

    • says

      As much as I’d love to have a rule of thumb to share with you for your window dilemma, I have never worked on architectural plans for new homes – I’m always working with existing spaces – so I don’t have the expert advice that you’re looking for. It sounds like an amazing house though – I can only imagine that it’s so much fun but also pretty stressful to have all of those details to sort out. Best of luck!

  29. Anonymous says

    I appreciate all your tips and advice. However I would suggest you change your title ‘rule of thumb’. This is an old saying that dates back to when a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick as long as it wasn’t bigger than the diameter of his thumb. Just my two cents.

    • says

      Soon after I created this post someone contacted me about the connection with “rule of thumb” that you mention. Before changing the title I looked into that term and found that it actually originates with carpenters who used the width of their thumbs (i.e., inches) rather than rulers for measuring things. The association with the width of a stick that a man was allowed to beat his wife with is a bit of an old wives tale according to what I was able to find. I understand your concern if that was the true origin and appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment about it.

  30. Anonymous says

    Hi, I really love your “rules” and I’ve book marked this site for easy reference. We are moving into a smaller home and our living room is 20 x 11 ft., which is at the front of the house with a fairly large bay window. On the short side far (11 ft wide ) wall we want to use a large mirror. What size mirror should we use? Or would it be better to use a collection of mirrors? Thanks!

    • says

      That such a hard question to answer because it honestly all depends upon the furniture that you’ll have in the room and how it’s going to be arranged. You might want to consider a tall leaning mirror – those are great when you want to make a big impact in your space. But the size and what else you want on that wall along with the mirror depends upon everything else going on in the room.

    • says

      I wish that I had an easy rule of thumb for you on this one but the right height to hang it would depend upon the exact size of the quilt, if it’s hanging over anything and what else is going on in the rest of your space.

  31. Anonymous says

    Kris, Is there a rule of thumb concerning hanging sconces beside a mirror over a vanity in the bathroom? What would be the appropriate height? My mirror is hanging rectangular and is 48″ tall.
    Donna

  32. says

    Hello. This is a great post! I was wondering if there is a rule of thumb for the space between vanity sconces and mirrors. I have a 10′ ceiling. Single sink. Sconces are 31.5″ apart, and each is 5″ wide at its base (shade is same width). Due to ceiling height, I have been looking for a tall mirror (also goes well with rest of the room). How wide should my mirror be? On Houzz I have seen some like 1″ away, and it seems too close unless itms frameless/mirror frame. Is there a rule here? Like 5″ because of sconce width or 2.5″ so it’s half sconce width? ;-) I can in theory push the sconces out, but they seem like they are a nice distance from the side walls so I would have to spend quite a bit to have them moved only an inch or two. I have found mirrors that are 28″ wide and 20.5″ wide with nice tall arches. 28″ is more dramatic but tight between the sconces. Standard 24×36 won’t go very high. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

  33. says

    Hi, Kris. Thank you for the informative post. I have a question that I didn’t see an answer for on here and hope you might shed some light on the matter. My dining room is 14′ w x 21′ l with 20′ ceiling. I want to place 2 chandeliers over my 144″ x 48″ table. How far apart should they hang over the table and what dimensions would be appropriate? Thnx!

    Yessica

    • Kris @ Driven by Decor says

      While I’ve never come across a “rule of thumb” for this, I had two chandeliers over our dining table in our previous home (http://www.drivenbydecor.com/2013/06/house-tour-dining-room.html) and I helped a friend do the same in her home. What I found worked best for both situations was to put each of the chandeliers a little less than a third of the way in from the end of the table. If that happens to be very close to lining up with the center of your side chairs, line up your chandeliers with the center of those. If not, don’t worry about lining them up with your chairs. You can still use the same rule of thumb measurements in the post for the width of your chandeliers as if you were only hanging one but I would go with something round (vs if you were hanging a single chandelier – you can go with oval or rectangular). Hope that helps!

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